Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
I was born in 1932 on my father’s farm, in the area that is now San Fernando Cemetery No. 3. I had a wonderful childhood growing up with my eight siblings, always surrounded by plenty of vegetables, fruits, chickens, and goats. Later, when I was teaching dance at Fort Sam, I met an Irish man with red hair and green eyes. He never learned how to dance, but we got married and moved to Riverside.
Riverside was a quiet, German neighborhood and most of our neighbors were elderly when we moved in. It’s still a quiet neighborhood, but it’s gone through a lot of changes.
I’ve lived in Riverside for over 50 years now, so I’ve been here for all the changes.
I’ve seen people move in and out, and now Riverside has a bigger Mexican-American population. Though I don’t interact with my neighbors as much now that I’m older and it’s harder to get around, the ones I’ve gotten to know are lovely. I got to know a lot of Riverside residents through my involvement with the neighborhood association over the years. My next-door neighbor, Maria Elena, has been living here for 30 years, and she always checks in on me and helps me get around. One of our neighbors, Saucedo, takes care of my yard and has been doing so for years.
One of the biggest issues that came up during my time with the neighborhood association was the state of our streets. When I called in 2013 about our street, I was told that it couldn’t be fixed until 2018 because it needed a lot of repair. There hadn’t been any work done on any of the surrounding streets in all my 50 years in this neighborhood. For years we tried to get them fixed, and Topeka Street was finally finished this year. Now they’re fixing Clifford Court, and I can’t wait. It’s going to be beautiful. Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran helped to make it happen. Sal Valdez, who works for Viagran, always keeps us informed about what’s going on when he attends our neighborhood meetings.
This year we’re having a neighborhood Christmas celebration, and in the past, our National Night Out gatherings have been lively and well-attended. I remember the streets getting closed off and having dances. Riverside Baptist Church, which is one of the oldest churches in San Antonio, used to host our meetings and some community events. The pastor at the church would also visit me often after my husband passed away.
We in Riverside are close to the missions, particularly Mission Concepción and Mission San José. There are some great restaurants. I love barbacoa and Pepe’s Barbacoa, which is only open on the weekends, is very tasty. Presa Community Center used to be a doctor’s office and now hosts many community events, as well as after school programs for the neighborhood kids. Templo Casa de Oracion used to be a pharmacy. I’ve been here for all the changes in my neighborhood and in San Antonio.
I used to like to go to Kress on Houston Street and Frost Bros., which was very expensive, so I only went to look around. The Walgreens downtown used to have a dining area, and I would go there all the time. I loved their ice cream and coffee. Downtown was buzzing back then. We had the Vogue, Joske’s, and all the theaters. I remember seeing The Ten Commandments at the Aztec with my husband and our parents.
Downtown is completely different now. Of course, change is good for the younger generation, but it’s also a bit sad for the older generations who are losing a lot of important places and memories. When I was in high school, I worked at Woolworth’s part time. Later I worked at an insurance company in a nearby building, so I’ve spent a lot of time near Alamo Plaza, and I’m worried about the changes that are coming with the redesign. I hope they still keep the Woolworth Building as an important part of the plaza because it’s a beautiful building with so much history.
I’ve become more interested in my own family history recently, and I started a club with my neighbor Maria Elena. We and the members help each other research our ancestries. It’s still a small club because we just started, but we meet once a month. I found out that my father was born in Mexico and adopted by a couple in Del Rio. He never met his birth parents. Now I’m trying to find some of his relatives. I’d like to invite them over and meet them.
I’m lucky that I grew up in a happy family and was able to find my own friendly community here in Riverside. I’d like to live to be 100 years old and still live in Riverside. I would not trade my neighborhood for any other.